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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 20 December 2018

"The Sunday Philosophy Club" by Alexander McCall Smith

Set in the same genteel and refined Edinburgh as the 44 Scotland Street stories (including Espresso tales and The world according to Bertie), Isabel Dalhousie is a gentlewoman with her own house and a housekeeper. Following a failed marriage and childless, she edits a philosophical review; otherwise she is a lady of leisure. At a night out listening to the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra she witnesses a young man fall from the Gods to his death in the Stalls. Or was he pushed? The stage is set for a gentle exploration of applied ethics, in particular whether and when one should tell a lie.

There is just enough plot to keep the pages turning but the main delight of this book lies in the intriguing insights of Ms Dalhousie. Here are just some of them:
  • She always felt inhibited from any act suggesting a lack of concentration or, worse still, of seriousness.” (C 1)
  • Something terrible happened and people began to shake. It was the reminder that frightened them; the reminder of just how close to the edge we are in life, always, at every moment.” (C 1)
  • You loved another, and this made you so vulnerable; just an inch or so too close to the edge and your world would change.” (C 2)
  • You had to be aware of human weakness, of course, because it simply was, but to revel in it seems to her to be voyeurism.” (C 2)
  • Do past wrongs seem less wrong to us simply because they are less vivid?” (C 3)
  • Why, she wondered, should anyone actually want a hunk, when nonhunks were so much more interesting?” (C 4)
  • Only the very immature and the very stupid are impressed by the depraved.” (C 5)
  • Respectability was such an effort though, and there were bars and clubs where people might go and behave as they really wanted to behave, but did not dare so publicly.” (C 5)
  • How arid it must be to be a man; how constrained; what a whole world of emotion, and sympathy, they must lack; like living in a desert.” (C 7)
  • I have bags of failings. Same as anybody else. Bags.” (C 13)
  • Good manners depended on paying moral attention to others; it required one to treat them with complete seriousness, to understand their feelings and their needs. Some people, the selfish, had no inclination to do this ... They were impatient with those who they thought did not count: the old, the inarticulate, the disadvantaged.” (C 14)
  • She was turned into a different station from most people and the tuning dial was broken.” (C 14)
  • Camus was right: the ultimate philosophical question was suicide. If there was no truth, then there was no meaning, and our life was Sisyphean. And if life was Sisyphean, thenn what point in continuing with it?” (C 17)
  • The gulls were considered a pest in the neighbourhood - large, mewing birds that swooped down on those who came too close to their nesting places - but we humans built too, and left cement and stones and litter, and were as aggressively territorial.” (C 21)
  • Why was it wrong to drop litter? Was it purely an aesthetic objection, based on the notion that the superficial pollution of the environment was unattractive? Or was the aesthetic impact linked to some notion of the distress which others felt in the face of litter? If that was the case, then we might even have a duty to look attractive to others, in order to minimise their distress.” (C 21)
  • In a world of need, it was wrong to be anything other than thin. Until everybody was in a position to consume a surfeit of calories, then nobody should carry extra weight. The fat with therefore not entitled to be what they were .” (C 21)
  • People give themselves away every five seconds. Watch the movement of eyes. It says absolutely everything you need to know.” (C 23)
Some challenging ideas!

I also very much enjoyed the next book in this series: Friends, Lovers, Chocolate.

December 2018; 281 pages

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